Education officials from all over the state and from all three branches of public education -- K-12 schools, community colleges and the UNC system -- aired their concerns in a three-hour session as most of the Senate listened intently.
The N.C. General Assembly is in the midst of building a budget for the 2002-03 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Due to both sagging revenue collections and escalating costs in several state programs, legislators are facing a budget hole of about $2 billion.
With few legislators willing to stomach a tax increase, lawmakers have begun to consider cuts to all corners of the state's $14 billion budget.
The Senate is expected to approve its plan on how to fill the fiscal hole in the next few weeks, at which point the plan will head to the N.C. House for approval.
Lawmakers have announced that they could have to cut about $695 million from education to balance the budget.
But Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said that before legislators made any final decisions on the budget they wanted to hear from as many education officials as possible.
Hundreds of education officials from across the state -- including school superintendents, community college presidents, UNC-system Board of Governors members and chancellors -- flocked to Raleigh on Tuesday on only a couple of days' notice to have their concerns heard by the state's most influential decision-makers.
After meeting with the Senate, many of those same education officials also met with Gov. Mike Easley, who proposed a much smaller cut to education in a budget he sent to the legislature last month. But Easley's budget is also reliant on a lottery, which the legislature has yet to approve.